Championship league ladder: Southampton up, Coventry City down
In brief, the idea will be that the table begins in the order that the Championship finished at the end of the 2010/11 season and a series of bloggers and journalists will each re-position one team further up and one team further down based on their thoughts over the summer. By the end, we will have a predicted Championship table for which we can all take some part of the blame…
Over to Jason…
Right, what better way to kick off this series than to begin with someone most of you lot have never heard off before? Grand. This is going to go down worse than a joke about infidelity round the table at the Giggs residence.
Then again, by the time this whole thing’s in the bag, this will be the one you remember least anyway, so there’s something to be said for that. So, being the guinea pig will suffice – that is, a guinea pig’s not the same animal as a gerbil, right?
If so, I’ll not be going by Richard Gere’s home anytime soon.
One up: Southampton
Ah, a proper South Coast derby awaits Saints supporters at the St. Mary’s. And, unless Southampton miraculously achieves another promotion or Pompey gets relegated, there should be more of them for the 2012/13 season, as Southampton’s not going back down to League One this campaign. This past season, the Saints overcame a previous tendency to gift the opposition the odd goal before the final whistle and boasted League One’s best defensive record.
While the promotion up will see Jose Fonte and Dan Harding tested more often every matchday, even a significant upturn in the goals allowed would still prevent the Saints from going down. Further, considering Fonte is no stranger to the Championship – having played there with Crystal Palace before the move to the coast – Southampton should be fine here.
A primary concern that could prevent Southampton from beating the drop would be in attack. Rickie Lambert was the club’s top scorer last season with 21 strikes and it seems there’s already been a multi-million pound transfer offer tabled for his services. If Lambert departs, though, Nigel Adkins should still have his own transfer kitty with funds provided by the Liebherr Trust to replace Lambert and assist attacking midfielder Adam Lallana in the goals department.
If not, surely they can coax LeTissier out of retirement for a nominal fee – he’s still good for a few goals, eh? Let’s not bet on it (too soon?)
Now, in years past, the Saints have had to part with precocious young talents such as Theo Walcott or Gareth Bale, and this year’s return to the second division will see attempts to pick apart Adkins’ side by fellow Championship sides or Premiership clubs looking to purchase a future star on the cheap. This year, though, Southampton should have the financial muscle to retain those budding stars they want and demand a shiny gold bar for lads like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to purchase more talent. In short, if Oxlade-Chamberlain, Puncheon or others are sold, the club will not be in a position where it is just pocketing the transfer fees, so Adkins will get the replacements he needs to keep the Saints up.
How far up? There is grand optimism amongst Saints supporters for this side, but a top half finish might be a bit of a stretch. After all, a good number of the squad still haven’t played that many minutes at this level of competition; therefore, a conservative estimation should see them finish well above the drop zone.
Southampton up to: 18th.
The Seventy Two Verdict: I think Jason’s been conservative here. Southampton are definitely a good team to pick to raise up the league ladder, but the performances of Norwich and Leeds during 2010/11 – and Swansea and Leicester before them – provide ammunition that League One’s promoted teams can subsequently challenge at the top end of the Championship.
Nigel Adkins needs to prove that he can win games in the division on a consistent basis, but he has a far better chance of this with the Saints than he did with Scunthorpe. At this stage, subject to signings, I would place them just outside the play-off places.
One down: Coventry City
The fact has been made that, with the Orange One having dutifully fulfilled his mid-season parachute job by ensuring Preston North End were relegated, the Sky Blues will now be the longest-tenured member of the Championship. What’s the old saying? Ah, yes – once you’re on top, there’s no place to go but down – and Coventry City look primed for a fall this season.
Andy Thorn’s no longer under a transfer embargo, so that means the club can go out and actually purchase some players. This is a good thing, because likely the first buy will have to be a forward when last season’s top goalscorer Marlon King quits jerking the club’s chain and signs with Birmingham or Leicester City. Oh, and the club will also need to replace its No.1 as Keiren Westwood is available on a free and purportedly being eyed by a few Premier League clubs. Coventry seem set to line up Joe Murphy as Westwood’s replacement in goal – also a keeper to be had on a free transfer from recently relegated Scunthorpe United.
As City was already less than dazzling offensively last season while Westwood did all he could to keep the opposition from scoring, the combination of these losses along with the possibility of losing Aron Gunnarsson – the club’s assists leader last campaign – is not an inviting mix for the Sky Blues who might have been hopeful about this season. With Chief Executive Paul Clouting having already said the club will have the same transfer budget as last season, when several new players were brought into the side on free transfers, this might be shaping up to be a blue season at the Ricoh indeed.
To make it an easy computation at the start, then, Coventry City take Southampton’s place on the league ladder. Now it’s time to rip both decisions to shreds, but please be gentle – I’ve an appointment with a doctor to keep. There’s a diabetes test he’s wanting to run on me, and all the lab rats were already booked for the day.
Coventry City down to: 23rd
The Seventy Two Verdict: Despite the imminent departure of Westwood, the probable departure of King and the possible departure of Gunnarsson, I am not quite as pessimistic as Jason about Coventry’s chances this season. Casting an eye over their results in the campaign that has just ended, there weren’t too many truly impressive results despite a good start to the season under Aidy Boothroyd.
Until, that is, Andy Thorn took over and April brought creditable victories over Watford, Portsmouth and Millwall. The problem is that King scored four of the five goals against the latter two and his situation hangs over Coventry like a dark cloud.
In summary, Jason’s re-positioning of Coventry in the relegation places is entirely understandable but their form under Thorn suggests a decent manager in the making and they could surprise – if that trio make their intentions clear sooner rather than later and Thorn has time to rebuild if necessary.
Table after Jason’s picks:
- Birmingham City
- West Ham United
- Cardiff City
- Nottingham Forest
- Leeds United
- Leicester City
- Hull City
- Ipswich Town
- Bristol City
- Derby County
- Crystal Palace
- Doncaster Rovers
- Brighton and Hove Albion
- Coventry City
- Peterborough United